Austria-Czech SIG #Austria-Czech Book Site: Czechs, Germans, Jews? #austria-czech


E. Randol Schoenberg
 

I received the new English version of Katerina Capkova's book "Czechs,
Germans, Jews? National Identity & the Jews of Bohemia" which really
gives an excellent, scholarly account of the movement of Jews in Bohemia
from Judeo-Deutsch to German to Czech, and the resulting confusion over
their national identity, whether Jewish, German or Czech. (In Czech it
was called "Cesi, Nemci, Zide?" See the review
at http://www.knihovnice.cz/recenze/capkova-k-cesi-nemci-zide.html .)
Until reading the book, I did not completely understand the political
dimensions to the Jewish-Czech identity issue in the First Republic
period. I recommend the book very highly. A summary of her argument is
at http://users.ox.ac.uk/~oaces/conference/papers/Katerina_Capkova.pdf

Relevant to some of our discussions, Capkova writes: "In the first
half of the nineteenth century, the period of Jewish emancipation, by
far most Bohemian Jews used German as the language of everyday
communication and adopted German culture in general." This began to
change only after about 1880 when the first Czech-language schools were
established. After the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918,
naturally the adoption of Czech accelerated. Nevertheless, there
remained a Jewish German elite that still clung to German culture. As
Capkova writes, "In the 1920s and 1930s the German Jewish elite of the
Bohemian Lands was the richest, most prosperous elite of any Central
European Jewish community."

What I found very interesting was the apparent split between those Jews
who adopted Czech. Some were assimilationist, and wished Jews to be
considered as just Czech. While the Zionists wished for Jews to be
treated as a separate nationality (like Hungarians). Capkova discusses
the various political machinations, including lobbying of Masaryk, and
the ramifications for Jews of measures to resolve this conflict.

We have started a discussion about the book on Geni at
http://www.geni.com/discussions/120424 and you are all welcome to post
your thoughts there.

Randy Schoenberg
Los Angeles, CA

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